Sunday, March 16, 2008

INTEL STEALS PAGES FROM AMD'S MARKETING PLAYBOOK

Intel's marketing department - the same one that kept the Pentium 4 alive well after its usefulness - seems to have shot itself in the face this year. Let me explain.

First of all, you're relying almost entirely on the model number to differentiate between a Yonah (Core Duo) and Merom (Core 2 Duo) based notebook. Apparently it would've killed Intel to term the Merom-based notebooks Centrino 2 Duo or Centrino Duo 64, or some kind of signifier that said these chips were better.

Second of all, it doesn't even actually matter that much. Merom was such an incremental upgrade to Yonah that it by and large went unnoticed. If you visit the forums here and see the initial wave of "should I upgrade my notebook Core Duo to a Core 2 Duo?" threads, you'll see that the answer was frequently "no, it's not really worth it." Because it's not: at the same clock speed you see a 10% performance increase at most. More than that, the 64-bit functionality isn't relevant and it's unlikely it will become relevant in the lifetime of that notebook.

Third of all, early announcements and all around media pimping of the Merom made the Yonah appear half-baked before it was even out of the gate; even my article from the beginning of the year hyped it as much. The question became "should I wait for Core 2 Duo?" I wish I could've known to say "no." Merom is essentially an undervolted, underclocked Conroe desktop chip. Die hard computer geeks, who does Turion 64 that remind Turion 64 you of Turion 64?

Probably one of the most disappointing points in all this is that Intel should be improving battery life with new iterations of its mobile chips, or at least stabilizing it. But the Core 2 Duo's 10% performance improvement has, for the first time in the history of the Centrino platform, put the performance ahead of battery life. If you want Core 2 Duo power, you'd better be willing to trade a bit of battery life for it. For most of us, that's just not worth it.

Intel had a really good thing going with the Centrino platform and it's disappointing to see it suddenly stagnate.

Amusingly, it was Intel's release in the desktop market that really blew away all of us tech geeks. The desktop Core 2 Duo is by all accounts an absolute monster. When I can achieve better than AMD top of the line performance from my $320 Intel processor, that's a huge deal. The desktop Core 2 Duo, codenamed Conroe, is so good and so efficient that notebook manufacturers were talking about putting them in desktop replacement notebooks around August of this year.

To wit: this is a desktop chip that is faster, cooler, and more heat efficient than the Mobile Athlon 64s AMD was putting into notebooks as recently as last year. So I guess my $20,000 question is: why can't I get this in a notebook yet? If Gateway and HP were shoehorning a freaking Prescott Pentium 4 into a 15.4" chassis, Conroe seems like an obvious choice.

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